I’ve been charged with an offence and have to go to court. Who can help me in court?
You can get help from a duty lawyer. A duty lawyer is a lawyer who is available at court to help you if you have been charged with an offence and don’t have a lawyer to represent you in court. They are available to you just for your first day in court. To see the duty lawyer ask the court reception or volunteer to see the duty lawyer.
A duty lawyer can help you:
- by explaining how serious your charge is and what type of penalties you might face
- understand what it means to you, to plead guilty or not guilty
- apply for bail (in some cases)
- ask for the case to be put off (remanded) to allow for more time for legal advice
- apply for legal aid if you need to return to court after the first day.
A duty lawyer will usually only represent you for your first day in court. So if your case continues and you can't afford a lawyer of your own then you will need to apply for legal aid for a lawyer to represent your case. The duty lawyer can help you with this.
More information about duty lawyers is on the Ministry of Justice website.
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How can I help my young grandchild who has to go to court to be a witness?
Appearing in court as a witness can feel a bit overwhelming - even a bit scary. You might like to take a look at the information on the Victims Information website. It explains your grandchild’s role as a witness, about giving evidence, and suggests ways you can support and help them.
You, or the child’s parents or caregiver, might consider counselling for the child if they witnessed something traumatic.
The child could attend the Court Education for Young Witnesses programme, where they’ll learn what happens in court, who sits where and who does what. Contact the victim advisor at the court to ask for this service.
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I was attacked and have to go to court as a witness. What help can I get from the court?
You can get help from a victim advisor.
The victim adviser is a court staff member. They can support you through the court process by providing information about the court process, letting you know what you will need to do and what rights you have.
This includes giving you information about other services and financial assistance that you might be eligible for. They can also help you prepare your Victim Impact Statement (which the judge will consider when deciding on the offender's sentence). There are specialist advisors for victims of sexual violence.
If you are not a confident speaker of the English language, you can ask your Victim Adviser to apply for an interpreter. This will be free to you.
The help provided by the Victim Adviser is free and confidential. The Victim Adviser will usually get in touch with you after the defendant's first appearance in court, but you can call the Victims Information Line (0800 650 654) and ask to speak to one.
More information about Victim Advisers and court support for victims of crime is on the Victims Information website. There are also downloadable brochures explaining the court process and what your rights are as a victim.
You can also get help from Victim Support. To find out more about this and other services for victims of crime visit our Victims and Victim Support page.
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Who are Friends at Court and what do they do?
Friends at Court is a volunteer organisation whose members help visitors to the court – for example they can tell you which court to go to for a particular case, and the approximate time it is scheduled to be heard.
A Friends at Court volunteer can also help if you are applying for criminal legal aid.
Some of the support services for victims of crime also provide court support - see our answer to the previous question and our Victims and Victim Support page. Your local CAB can help you identify a court support service near you.